‘Vacuum cleaner’ for the ocean
By Liza Mayer
Microplastics and contaminants associated with marine litter have negative effects on marine life and may affect food safety. In one of the world’s most densely populated regions where most are living in coastal areas, marine litter has serious negative effects on fisheries and aquaculture, acknowledged the United Nations.
Enter FRED, a “vacuum cleaner” for the ocean being developed by California nonprofit Clear Blue Sea. Short for Floating Robot for Eliminating Debris, FRED is a solar-powered marine vessel designed to collect trash on open bodies of water.
FRED’s debris collection conveyor belt picks up floating debris sized from about 10mm to 1m long. The vessel is still in development but the team hopes to pilot test a design in Hawaii this year. The team is working on a 50-foot version of the trash collector.
Clear Blue Sea says it is partnering with sustainable recycling organizations to ensure the plastic is repurposed and does not end up back in the ocean. It is seeking funding (www.clearbluesea.org) to fulfill its mission to cleanse the oceans of plastic pollution.
While the challenges posed by marine debris, plastics and microplastics are well known, so too is the fact that no single solution exists to solve them. Another nonprofit, called The Ocean Cleanup, is in a more-advanced stages of development of its garbage collection system for the ocean.